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Resignations heap pressure on Berlusconi

By the CNN Wire Staff
Silvio Berlusconi could lack the support necessary to survive a vote of confidence now former allies have turned on him.
Silvio Berlusconi could lack the support necessary to survive a vote of confidence now former allies have turned on him.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is fighting with former ally Gianfranco Fini
  • Government ministers loyal to Fini hand in their resignations
  • It's not clear if Italy will need to have new elections
RELATED TOPICS

Rome, Italy (CNN) -- Four Italian government ministers resigned Monday, they said, escalating a confrontation between Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and a former ally turned opponent.

"There is no longer confidence between us and the prime minister," Adolfo Urso, one of the ministers who quit, told CNN.

Urso was vice-minister for economic development.

He and the other three ministers who quit all belong to Gianfranco Fini's Future and Liberty party, which was established after Berlusconi threw Fini out of his party, People of Freedom, this summer.

Andrea Ronchi, Antonio Buonfiglio and Roberto Menia also left the government.

They decided on their resignations last week, but only handed them in Monday because Berlusconi was out of the country at the G20 summit in Seoul, South Korea, last week.

Fini called on the Italian prime minister to resign November 7, threatening to prompt this government crisis if he did not.

Berlusconi survived a vote of confidence at the end of September, but Fini's supporters -- who number about 40 -- backed the prime minister at that time.

If they turn against him, Berlusconi might lack enough votes to survive another confidence vote.

Political analyst James Walston told CNN there was an element of bluster in Fini's call for Berlusconi to resign.

"Fini is not completely closing the door to Berlusconi," Walston said on the day of Fini's speech.

"He was strong against him and was clearly provoking him, but Italian politics is strange and up till now Fini has been playing a double game, because he doesn't want to go to elections yet."

Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, who has the authority to dissolve parliament, has said he opposes new elections because it would create instability at a time of economic crisis.

A new budget is working its way through parliament, and Napolitano has asked that any new elections be postponed until after its approval, which is expected before the end of the year.

Napolitano is scheduled to meet the heads of the two chambers of parliament on Tuesday, starting the official political consultations which could lead to early elections.

In his speech last week, Fini accused Berlusconi of a lack of attention to the economic crisis and structural reforms that Italy needs.

Berlusconi faces a difficult economic picture as he looks ahead to the rest of his term, which expires in 2013.

Italian unemployment is running at 8.5 percent, the highest level since 2003, according to the Italian statistical office, and public debt is 120 percent of the country's gross domestic product, the Bank of Italy says.

CNN's Livia Borghese and Hada Messia contributed to this report.